Skukuza – An experiment is underway in the Kruger NationalPark (KNP) to prove that fires can be used to rejuvenate savanna ecosystems andboost biodiversity.
The Savanna Fire Ignition Research Experiment (SavFIRE) is an ongoing experimentto investigate the effects of different types of fire patterns and their effecton biodiversity.
“Fire is a tool used to rejuvenate savanna ecosystems and boostbiodiversity, but in order to achieve the maximum benefit, it is important thatthe fire is not too intense,” said park spokesperson Raymond Travers.
He said fire researchers who attended the 6th annual Science Network Meeting inSkukuza recently found that fires that are started at a single point were morenatural than those started on a block or piece of land.
The point ignitions were more difficult to control, however, and posed a greaterrisk of getting out of hand.
Researchers were therefore trying to find out whether smaller block burns, underspecific conditions, could achieve a similar effect as point ignitions.
Mr Travers said experimental fires were only started when the temperature wasless than 20 degrees Celsius, relative humidity was higher than 50 percent andwind speed was less than 10km per hour.
Aerial photos and satellite images were used to study the fire’s behaviour, firepatterns and to compare the effects of point and block burns.
SavFIRE experiments are being conducted in three veld areas of the park, in theLowveld sour bushveld in the Pretoriuskop area, in the Knoppiesdoring-Marulaveld in the Satara region and the Mopane veld in the Mopane region.
The experiments are also providing temporary jobs to people from disadvantagedcommunities, said Mr Travers.
The Kruger National Park was established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of theSouth African Lowveld.
It is nearly two million hectares in size and is unrivalled in the diversity ofits life forms and a world leader in advanced environmental managementtechniques and policies.
The park is home to species including 336 of trees, 49 of fish, 34 types ofamphibians, 114 reptile species, 507 kinds of birds and 147 species of mammals.
Man’s interaction with the Lowveld environment over many centuries – frombushman rock paintings to majestic archaeological sites like Masorini andThulamela – is very evident in the Kruger National Park.
These treasures represent the cultures, persons and events that played a role inthe history of the Kruger National Park and are conserved along with the park’snatural assets.
A nine month report, ending 31 December 2005, released by SANParks in 2006 showsthe Kruger National Park received the highest number of guests from all nationalparks, at 1 005 012.
This was followed closely by Table Mountain National Park with 1 001 123 guestsand Tsitsikamma National Park in third place with 113 368 guest.